Role of GH/IGF axis in arsenite-induced developmental toxicity in zebrafish embryos



• Arsenite induced abnormal development of zebrafish.
• Arsenite increased the level of GH in zebrafish.
• Arsenite down-regulated the expression of GH/IGF axis related genes.
• Arsenite caused locomotor behavior disorder by affecting abnormal neurodevelopment.


Growth hormone (GH)/insulin-like growth factor (IGF) axis plays a critical role in fetal development. However, the effect of arsenite exposure on the GH/IGF axis and its toxic mechanism are still unclear. Zebrafish embryos were exposed to a range of NaAsO2 concentrations (0.0–10.0 mM) between 4 and 120 h post-fertilization (hpf). Development indexes of survival, malformation, hatching rate, heart rate, body length and locomotor behavior were measured. Hormone levels, GH/IGF axis-related genes, and nerve-related genes were also tested. The results showed that survival rate, hatching rate, heart rate, body length and locomotor behavior all decreased, while deformity increased. At 120 hpf, the survival rate of zebrafish in 1.5 mM NaAsO2 group was about 70%, the deformity rate exceeded 20%, and the body length shortened to 3.35 mm, the movement distance of zebrafish decreased approximately 63.6% under light condition and about 52.4% under dark condition. The level of GH increased and those of IGF did not change significantly, while the expression of GH/IGF axis related genes (ghra, ghrb, igf2r, igfbp3, igfbp2a, igfbp5b) and nerve related genes (dlx2, shha, ngn1, elavl3, gfap) decreased. In 1.5 mM NaAsO2 group, the decrease of igfbp3 and igfbp5b was almost obvious, about 78.2% and 72.2%. The expression of nerve genes in 1.5 mM NaAsO2 group all have declined by more than 50%. These findings suggested that arsenite exerted disruptive effects on the endocrine system by interfering with the GH/IGF axis, leading to zebrafish embryonic developmental toxicity.


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